May 2018 Luncheon - Speaker: Augustus Campbell's Speech
Monday, June 18, 2018
HCA Welcomes Augustus Campbell as May Luncheon Speaker
Augustus Campbell is the President & CEO of the West Houston Association and Chair of Harris Plus Flood Solutions. He spoke about the current status of the flood recovery and risk reduction bond election effort, why it is needed, and proposed possible projects that the group is supporting to protect the region against future flooding.
Gazing into the crowded ballroom at the Junior League of Houston, Mr. Augustus Campbell said that he was happy to see a room full of faces that he recognized from his time spent working for the city of Houston. He then began his presentation talking specifically about real solutions to Houston’s flood control issues and the Houston Stronger Conference. The conference, which aims to bring residents together with community leaders to discuss why Harris County is holding a special bond election on August 25th.
Mr. Campbell stated that the city has researched how Houston floods, but he said that “we should stop talking about controlling flooding and instead should plan, fund, and make the solutions happen.” He stated that in the past there have been several plans to control Houston’s flooding, but with the city’s exponential growth, Houston needs a new plan for today’s infrastructure as well as anticipate the city’s future growth.
He said that Hurricane Harvey dropped 15 trillion gallons of water on the Houston community. With that level of rainfall, it is necessary for the other counties surrounding Harris to be included in any flood control plans. This needs to be a regional approach to flood control and is not just a local issue. Houston has not received as much federal relief funding as other community’s post-other major hurricanes because “Houston is a ‘do it yourself’ type of town”. However, this has had a negative affect and resulted in repeated flooding. If the city is going to be more protected, we have to be better at going and getting money from the federal government.
Mr. Campbell brought up that Congress has allocated $141billion in funds for 2017 major storm declarations. He said that HCA and other Houston area organizations sent letters to the House Appropriations Committee and most of the Senate to get them to vote for this funding. He said this effort took time and persistence which he described as not being easy but was rewarding.
Mr. Campbell said there is an estimated cost of $35 billion to protect Harris County alone from future flooding. The upcoming bond election in August is for $2.5 billion. This amount can do a lot for Houston. If approved, the bonds would help pay for various projects, including the widening of bayous and possibly a new reservoir. Mr. Campbell stated that there are various programs and organizations that will assist the city in projects. He said, however, Houston needs to have spent its own funds on projects first.
He stated that the goal is to have the solutions completed by the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. Mr. Campbell thanked the HCA for their hard work pressuring Congress as well as raising funds locally for the flood prevention and resiliency projects.
Mr. Campbell said the Harris county plan totals $35 billion and the regional plan totals $58 billion. The best course of action for our region is to prepare for the probable maximum rainfall. Harvey was almost the exact same amount as the pre-calculated maximum rainfall, interestingly enough. He continued to say that the first step should be restoring Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
Mr. Campbell stated that Addicks should have six feet dredged and ten feet in Barker. He stated that by removing that much sediment from the reservoirs, the amount of rain Hurricane Harvey dropped would be contained. Mr. Campbell also stated that to cut down on maintenance invasive vegetation should be removed and local vegetation planted. This will reinforce the sediment and prevent future dredging of the reservoirs.
Additionally, he stated that Simms Bayou is the only bayou that protected 100% of nearby homes. He said every community should have a reservoir. Mr. Campbell said that the idea of building reservoirs for residential communities is well advocated for, but that the problem is where to put them. With the ever-expanding Houston area, he said locations for reservoirs is hard to find.
Before the improvements can be implemented, Mr. Campbell stated they will have to buy a lot of the houses that have repeatedly flooded. The problem he said is that to buy all the homes in the repeated flooding area will cost about $8.5 billion. There will need to be other solutions like flood tunnels and other creative ideas.
Mr. Campbell urged the audience to get out the vote to their friends and families, stating that “this bond election is the most important one in our lifetimes.”